Freelance writers run the risk of having their content used without permission or compensation. While it can be risky working as a freelance writer, if you’re aware of the possible pitfalls, you have much better chance of preventing plagiarism of your writing. Take a look at these suggestions for protecting your work:
Trust Your Gut
If you are contacted by a new client and they ask you to submit content without a contract, it’s a good idea to tread lightly. Sometimes freelance writers have to take risks to get work, but giving your work away for free shouldn’t be one of them.
I have met several freelance writers who submitted samples of their work for a job opening only to find their samples published without being compensated. If you do send a writing sample, send content that has already been published elsewhere. Be clear with the client that the sample is already published, but provides an example of your writing. If the client continues to push you for a new sample without an agreement about compensation, trust your gut and do what you think is right for the situation.
Secure a Contract
A few clients may want to work with you in the short term or just for one project, but be careful about writing anything without a contract. There’s nothing wrong with requesting a written agreement that states the client will not use your content without paying for it.
If a client insists on hiring you without an agreement in place, share your concerns. Get as much information as you can in an email about use of your content so you have documentation in case they publish your work without payment and you have to go after them for compensation.
If you give up ownership of your writing after it has been submitted, make sure you understand the ramifications of this decision. If you have a byline, determine if you will be able to retain that byline once you stop working for the client. The last thing you want to do is write hundreds of articles only to find your byline has been stripped from your work once you part ways with the client.
Few things are more frustrating as a freelance writer than pouring yourself into an article only to discover your words have been warped by a heavy-handed editor. Ensure an editor can’t drastically reword your content so the meaning of what you originally wrote is lost. Ask to be in charge of major revisions to your work and have a last say on final edits. If the writing is in your name, you don’t want a poor or inexperienced editor to make you look like a bad writer.
The main way to keep your work from being plagiarized is to keep a copy of everything you write. When submitting content to new or potential clients, cc yourself on the email for your records. It’s a good idea to purchase a subscription to Copyscape, an online plagiarism detection tool that searches the Internet for similar text published on the web.
Have you ever had your writing stolen or misused; if so, how did you handle it and what would you recommend to your fellow freelance writers?
Sarah is the Content Manager and a Writer at Virtual Vocations, the one-stop shop for telecommuters looking for legit jobs. With several years of marketing and writing experience, Sarah managed a group of freelance writers for a marketing firm before venturing out into the telecommute world. Follow Sarah on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.